Bayern Munich have made Omar Richards their second-ever Englishman after agreeing a four-year deal with the Reading defender. But having snatched him from the Championship, what can the somewhat unknown full-back bring to the current world champions?
The 23-year-old is set to swap Berkshire for Bavaria in the summer after signing a pre-contract agreement with the Bundesliga leaders. A host of Premier League clubs were interested in the former Under-21 international, but Bayern made use of their foreign advantage to complete a move with less than six months remaining on his current contract.
Richards has gradually broken into the Royals’ set-up over the past four seasons and flourished in the current campaign. He’s now the latest of several young Brits to test the waters in Germany, following the likes of Jude Bellingham, Jadon Sancho and Demarai Gray.
His introduction into the Bayern Munich squad is likely to have a positional knock-on effect that will please manager Hans-Dieter Flick. Alphonso Davies will remain as the favoured left-back, while current understudy Lucas Hernandez can adjust to his preferred central position and replace the departing David Alaba.
As a pacy, athletic full-back, Richards already has the profile of a typical Bundesliga success story (read: Alphonso Davies). He’s an exceptional like-for-like replacement for the Canadian wonderkid and has even played in Bayern’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation at the Madejski Stadium this season.
In the Championship, Richards has been at a level above most. He leads the league in tackles per game and averages more dribbles than any other left-back. He’s also the fourth most fouled defender – a figure dominated by players who sporadically move into the midfield. And for Reading, he’s statistically the joint most important player in the squad in terms of net goals while on the pitch.
But while Richards’ current talents lie in his defensive capabilities, he’s also displayed potential of an attacking threat. There’s no doubt the Bayern coaches will be looking to transform him into the complete player, as they’ve done with several signings in recent years.
With three goals in nearly 100 games and awaiting his first assist, Richards is yet to impact offensively despite a desire to push forward. The Lewisham left-back has averaged 0.64 shots per game this season, compared to 0.24 for Davies, but lacks efficiency in front of goal. While 66% of Davies’ attempts are on target, only a third of Richards’ strikes have tested the goalkeeper.
However, Davies has shown remarkable improvements during his time at the Allianz Arena. With the Vancouver Whitecaps, the youngster averaged just 27.6% shots on target during three seasons, a record worse than Richards while in an arguably weaker league. Coaches may be able to put his attacking intentions to full use in Germany.
As would be expected in a comparison between Reading and Bayern Munich, Richards has had considerably more defensive involvement than Davies this year. He’s averaged twice as many tackles per game, and a greater number of fouls has seen Richards cautioned every an average of every four games.
But in Davies’ three seasons at Bayern, his fewest number of touches have always come in the defensive third. Therefore, these numbers may not be a concern for Munich and may in fact provide a more defensive option over Davies if required. Despite the increased intensity, Richards has only narrowly been dribbled past more, being beaten 0.7 times a game compared to 0.5 times for the Canadian.
Richards is the first addition of newly appointed scout Pirmin Schwegler, who only joined the Bayern set-up in November, but could prove a fantastic asset to the squad. Without the pressure of a transfer fee, Richards has free rein to develop in one of the world’s best teams. He's a carbon copy of Davies and should fit into the Bayern Munich XI immaculately whenever called upon. But even if he’s unable to step up in elite competition, the German giants would be guaranteed to sell him back to a British club with his value inflated by experience in such a team.
There may even be the opportunity to see an English duo lining the wings in Munich next season. The club has also begun negotiations with Norwich City over highly-rated right-back Max Aarons, with the Canaries valuing the 21-year-old at £35 million. London ballers are now taking over Europe.